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The Hyphenated American Musicians

Negative sentiments toward hyphenated citizens was the subject of testing the loyalty of German-American conductors of American symphony orchestras. This issue was subject to the way concerts were programmed. Classical music concerts in the early 20th century America weighed heavily toward German repertoire. 

Conductors and Orchestras in America

There were several major orchestras in America actively performing on the eve of the war. Some of them were the: New York Symphony Society (1842) (later on the New York Philharmonic), Boston Symphony Orchestra (1881), Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1895), and the Philadelphia Orchestra (1900). All conductors except Leopold Stokowski of the Philadelphia Orchestra claimed German ancestry.67 The hyphenated identity of German-Americans were at odds with the growing anti-German 100% Americanism movement. The conductors were then forcefully scrutinized for their possible allegiance to Germany. In the cases of Karl Muck of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Ernst Kunwald of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, being scrutinized meant being stripped of their position as conductors, imprisoned at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia under the Alien Enemies Act, and branded as “dangerous and enemy aliens.”68 It is also important to note that many musicians in American orchestras were either German-born, German-trained, or both. Due to the makeup of the orchestras, rehearsals before World War I were conducted in German.69

Philip Hale, critic for the Boston Home Journal, wrote a scathingly report of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He wrote:

German is spoken at rehearsals of orchestras composed of men of various nationalities, and supported by Americans. And when the chief supporter and patron of the Boston Symphony Orchestra wished the other day to express to the orchestra his personal gratification at the work of the past year, it is said that he composed with care a letter in the German language which was read aloud in German by an imported German.70

This was the sentiment in the Boston area when Karl Muck was accused of being a German spy.

Karl Muck and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

The uproar against Muck was fueled over America’s lack of a national anthem. On October 30, 1917, the Providence Journal demanded that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be843px Karl Muck 1Karl Muck played during the symphony’s concert that evening in Providence. The writer concluded “It is a good time as any to put Professor Muck to the test.” The founder of the orchestra, Henry Higginson, and the orchestra manager, Charles Ellis, received several telegrams on the same day with the same request from several patriotic groups including the Liberty Loan Committee and several women’s music societies.71 Muck and the Boston SymphMuck and the Boston SymphonyHigginson and Ellis made the fatal decision of ignoring the requests and failed to inform Muck about what happened. The following day, news began circulating that Muck refused to play “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Baltimore, where the orchestra was scheduled to perform next, racked up its dismay for Muck and announced that Muck would not be allowed to conduct there.72 It soon became a national controversy that it reached the New York Times. In a statement published by the New York Times from his conductor rival, Walter Damrosch of the New York Symphony Society said Muck’s “cynical disregard of the sanctity of our national air showed disrespect for the emotions of his audience.”73

Theodore Roosevelt even chimed in on the situation saying:

No man has any business to be engaged in anything that is not subordinate to patriotism. If the Boston Symphony Orchestra will not play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it ought to be made to shut up. If Dr. Muck will not play it, he ought not to be at large in this country.74

The Boston Symphony’s next stop was in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Mrs. William Jay, a member of the of the New York Symphony’s board of directors, insisted that Muck mustMuck arrestedMuck (center) during his arrest prove to the American public that he has no ties to Germany and that he currently holds Swiss citizenship. Anti-German fever was still running high and on the night of the concert, hundreds of policemen were deployed to patrol Carnegie Hall. Muck started out the concert with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Higginson presented his Swiss credentials to the audience, and the audience watched in awe as Muck led the orchestra in a vigorous performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 which was met with thunderous applause.75 Despite this, Muck was arrested on March 26, 1918 when he returned to Boston on charges of being a German spy. After a prolonged incarceration in Massachusetts, he was transferred to Fort Oglethorpe where he was held until August 21, 1919. He departed the same day for Europe and said: “I leave America with no regrets as the country is being controlled by sentiments which closely border on mob rule.” Also imprisoned at Fort Oglethorpe was Ernst Kunwald, the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony.

Ernst Kunwald and the Cincinnati Orchestra

Ernst Kunwald BerlLeben 1906 08 RSiegertErnst Kunwald The Austrian Kunwald replaced Stokowski in 1912 when the latter accepted the position of music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Unlike Boston, about 60% of Cincinnati’s population was German.76 Kunwald successfully won over his audiences and was loved by his orchestra. His program included works by German composers and sometimes American compositions such as Edward MacDowell and Victor Herbert. Recognizing that the orchestra’s quality reached new heights, the management renewed Kunwald’s contract for an additional four years.77 Kunwald’s repertoire choice got him into trouble amid growing anti-German sentiments. While he agreed to reduce German repertoire for the concerts, he resolutely refused to ban it from the concert hall. Kline L. Robert, Kunwald’s orchestra manager, declared publicly, "German music also will be played as usual.”78

Despite its predominant German population, Cincinnati was not immune to the growing trend of 100% Americanism. Locals insisted on having “The Star-Spangled Banner” played before every concert. In response, Kunwald said "you all know where my heart and sympathies lie. They are on the other side, with my country, but I will play your anthem for you.”79 Law enforcement officials interpreted this statement as anti-American and soon launched an investigation into Kunwald’s ties to Germany. The issue would not die and just like in Muck’s case, Kunwald’s problems became a national issue. During a concert tour in Pittsburgh, the Daughters of the American Revolution pressured Pittsburgh’s public safety director, Charles F. Hubbard, to forbid Kunwald to appear on Pittsburgh’s concert stage. On November 21, 1917, a day before the orchestra’s scheduled appearance, Hubbard issued a statement:


As long as I am Director ... I will not permit an alien enemy to produce a concert of any kind. I do not say that they are all spies, but most of them are. I have issued orders that the playing of Austrian and German music must be stopped.80Kunwalds arrestKunwald's arrest

Given the controversy, Kunwald submitted his resignation as conductor, but the management refused. On December 8, 1917, a day after Congress declared war on Austria-Hungary, Kunwald was arrested "for precautionary reasons and not because the Government has any material evidence against him.”81 He was then paroled and then rearrested on December 19, 1917 on orders by a minor official at that time – J. Edgar Hoover.82 On January 12, 1918, Kunwald was transferred to Fort Oglethorpe. The camp was furnished with entertainment and interestingly, Kunwald was able to bring his Steinway grand piano with him which was placed in the “Millionaires’ Compound.”83

Kunwald then organized several evening musical events for entertainment. Pieces selected from German and Italian repertoire were oftentimes performed. Soon, Kunwald was able to organize a symphony orchestra of professional ability. Members consisted mostly of the German naval band from the former German protectorate of Tsing tao orchestraThe Tsing-Tao orchestraTsing-Tao, China.84 The prisonMuck Ft. Oglethorpe concert programMuck's Ft. Oglethorpe concert program camp’s symphony was then named Das Tsingtauer Orchester after Tsing-Tao. Muck also led the orchestra on December 12, 1918 in a historic performance of the Brahm’s Academic Festival Overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” and was greeted with rapturous applause.

Although the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, repatriation of “enemy aliens” only started in May of 1919. Kunwald was released on May 31, 1919 and voluntarily returned to Germany a week later where he resumed his conducting career. Other conductors avoided programming German repertoire and decided to embrace 100% Americanism in order to keep their conducting positions.85



Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

StockFrederick StockFrederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony, continued to favor German repertoire through the 1916-1917 season.86 However, changes were in the making. The second part of the first concert for the 1917-1918 season featured George Chadwick’s Tam O’Shanter, Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, and orchestral works by Frederick Delius and Alfredo Casella. The second concert featured John Alden Carpenter’s Symphony No.1.87

Keeping in line with the 100% Americanism movement, Stock began using English in 1914 as the main language for conducting rehearsals and requested that members of the orchestra avoid reading German newspapers in public.88 At the opening of the 1917-1918 season, Stock specifically announced that every concert would include at least one work of an American composer.89 Stock seems to have enjoyed exploring American repertoire. In an interview with the Chicago Daily News, Stock told the reporter: “You should be surprised at the amount and the excellent quality of the material which I have found available among the works of native and resident composers.”90 Despite these efforts, the predominantly German orchestra was not immune to the scrutiny of loyalty. Local newspapers still found a way to twist stories in an effort to put the orchestra in a bad light. Members of the orchestra were forced to declare publicly their “unswerving loyalty to the Government…in the great cause for which it has taken up arms against the rulers of the German people.”91 From December, 21, 1917, programs always included a patriotic song and either “America” or “The Star Spangled Banner” was on the head of the concert program.92 Stock’s immigration status was also subject to scrutiny. His citizenship papers were still pending and in light of 100% Americanism, a non-citizen was automatically looked down on. However, Stock always tried to make a good impression on American society. As early as 1910, he composed Festival March, a piece that consolidated themes from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Old Folks at Home,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Dixie.” In 1913, Stock wrote Hymn to Liberty, another patriotic work.93 Stock resigned his position as conductor on August 17, 1918 temporarily amid the rising anti-German fever. He returned to the Chicago podium on February 28, 1919 and was met with thunderous applause from the orchestra and the audience.94

Damrosch, the New York Symphony, and the French-American music school

Perhaps the only conductor who stood out as a super-patriotic American was Walter Damrosch of the New York Symphony. Born into a musical family, his father was aDamroschWalter Damrosch conductor and composer. His uncle, Frank Damrosch, founded the New York Institute of Musical art, which later became the Juilliard School. Walter Damrosch was among the first to criticize Muck for not resigning from his post since there was conflict of interest between Muck’s nationality and his host country. Damrosch’s actions seem to have been driven by his need to prove himself as a loyal American citizen of German heritage. Damrosch arrived in America from Germany when he was nine years old.95 His patriotism caught the attention of the YMCA and Theodore Roosevelt who wrote, “Mr. Walter Damrosch is one of the very best Americans and citizens in this entire land. In character, ability, loyalty, and fervid Americanism he, and his, stand second to none in the land. I have known him thirty years; I vouch for him as if he were my brother.”96

Although Damrosch was German, he embraced the growing influences of French music. As early as April 1905, Damrosch went to France and Belgium to recruit musicians for the New York Symphony. He returned to New York bringing with him five French musicians.97 During the war, Damrosch conducts liberty loan driveDamrosch conducting a military band for a Liberty loan driveDamrosch conducted Liberty Loan drives and supported the war effort wholeheartedly. Near the end of the war, Damrosch was invited to conduct the French Pasdeloup Orchestra on tour of recreation centers, camps, and hospitals. His commitment to French repertoire did not go unnoticed and in June 1918, he was invited to organize benefit concerts in Paris for war relief efforts. He gave away the funds to the families of orchestral musicians who were now serving at the front.98 It was during these concerts that he first met Nadia Boulanger, a young professor at the Paris Conservatoire who also organized war relief efforts.99 Together, they would establish a music school to train American troops. Just as he ordered the Committee on Training Camp Activities (CTCA) to organize a singing program to train troops, General Pershing called Damrosch to discuss some ideas on how to improve the quality of theDamrosch and BoulangerDamrosch and Nadia Boulanger army bands. Pershing said, “When peace is declared and our bands march up Fifth Avenue, I should like them to play so well that it will be another proof of the advantage of military training.”100

Assembling graduates of the Paris Conservatoire, Damrosch organized a315th regimentThe 315th Regiment was among the first bands to be associated with the Chaumont school.  bandmasters’ training school for the American military in France with conservatoire graduates acting as teachers.101 The first school opened in Chaumont in October 1918 and Francis Casadesus served as its first director. Soon, the school was able to organize a well-trained band, “General Pershing’s Band.”102 The program ran until June 1919. It was successful and talks were organized to form the 960px Chateau Fontainebleau 002Chateau Fontainebleau Conservatoire Américain in Fontainebleau and among the faculty, Boulanger was listed as professor of harmony. Inauguration of the school occurred on June 4, 1919 and its mission was to offer aspiring American music students the opportunity to study music seriously. A bill to establish a federally funded American conservatory was on Congress’ desk from 1917 to 1918. After all, this move would eliminate the need to seek instruction from other countries and potentially secure America’s national identity in the arts. However, the “American School” in Fontainbleau made this bill outdated.103 Not only did the school offer excellent musical training, thanks to Boulanger’s curriculum and Damrosch’s influence, but it also cemented positive Franco-American relations. It would not take long before African American jazz musicians would travel to the school for formal training. Young American students started to pour in such as Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Elliot Carter. The relationship between Boulanger and Damrosch would be crucial in shaping American music.


Stokowski and the Philadelphia Symphony

Leopold Stokowski was a British national and therefore not considered an enemy alien like his contemporaries. Stokowski first served as Cincinnati’s conductor before signingStokowski in 1918Stokowski in 1918 his contract with the Philadelphia Symphony in 1912. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Stokowski noted the poor support locals were willing to give to its low-quality orchestra. He then devised a strategy to raise its quality and earn the respect of Philadelphia’s social circles.104 Using Stokowski Mahler Philadelphia Orchestra at American premiere of Mahlers 8th Symphony 1916Stokowski conducts the American premiere of Mahler's 8th Symphony his inherent flamboyant attitude and enthusiasm, Stokowski and his wife scoured the country to hire the finest musicians they could find. Stokowski radically changed the sound from a mechanical, which he called the “German” style, to a more romantic and expressive style.105 At the beginning of the war, the Stokowskis were able to barely bring a score of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand (Symphony No. 8) out of Germany. Had the Stokowskis been caught by German troops, they could have been arrested and branded as enemy aliens.106 Stokowski spent most of the time between 1914 and 1916 improving the Philadelphia Symphony’s quality. His efforts culminated on March 2, 1916 when he stepped out into the stage and conducted Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand to a sold-out audience. Stokowski successfully gained the respect of Philadelphia and was invited to New York to repeat the performance. Although Mahler was an Austro-Hungarian, his works were not despised by 100% Americans. Perhaps the patriotic movement was more concerned on who directed the orchestra rather than what they played.



67. The birthplace and nationality of Stokowski are contested. Nicolas Slonimsky, editor of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, reports that he received a letter from a Finnish encyclopedia editor that said, "The Maestro himself (referring to Stokowski) told me that he was born in Pomerania, Germany, in 1889." In Germany there was a corresponding rumor that his original name was simply "Stock" (German for stick). Abram Chasins, Leopold Stokowski, A profile, pp. 1-3 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1979). In his book, Stokowski – A Counterpoint of View (1982), Oliver Daniel suggests that the reason for this mystery is because Stokowski was influenced greatly by his first wife, Olga Samaroff, who "urged him to emphasize only the Polish part of his background" once he became a resident of the U.S. Daniel, Ch.12
68. Bowles, p. 408 and Watkins, p. 303
69. Watkins, p. 299
70. “Philip Hale, Selections from His Columns in the Boston Home Journal, 1889–1891,” in Music in Boston: Music of the First Three Centuries, ed. John C. Swan (Boston, 1977), 93.
71. Watkins, p.301
72. “Declares Muck Must Not Lead in Baltimore,” Boston Globe, 5 November 1917, p. 3
73. “Threat to Disband Boston Symphony,” The New York Times, 1 November 1917, p. 10.; Repeated in New York Times: "Dr. Muck Resigns, Then Plays Anthem," November 3, 1917
74. The Musical Leader, Volume 34, No. 19 Nov. 8, 1917; p. 463
75. Watkins, p. 303
76. Bowles, p. 416
77. Bowles, p. 416
78. "Kunwald to Lead Players in U.S. Songs," Cincinnati Post, Oct. 25, 1917, 1
79. Microfilm M-1085, reel 331, doc. 10490, "Old German" files. Also, the Cincinnati Enquirer, April 28, 1917, 3, and the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Dec. 11, 1917. Cited by Bowles, p. 417
80. "Sleuths Pose as 'Guests' to Hear Kunwald," Cincinnati Post, Jan. 14, 1918, 8
81. Correspondence on the arrest can be found in the Justice Dept.’s Bureau of Investigation files 9140-5809 and 10490-48 Correspondence Files 1917-41.
82. Microfilm M-1085, reel 331, doc. 10266, “Old German” files.
83. Speed, 160-162; cited in Bowles, p. 423
84. The German band was captured on Nov. 1914 by Japanese and British troops. Under the Geneva Convention, members of the band were noncombatants and were not considered POW’s. They were then dropped off in the U.S. which was neutral at that time. When America entered the war, they were arrested for being enemy aliens and sent to Fort Oglethorpe.
85. The percentage of performing German works by American orchestras diminished significantly between 1917 and 1919 while the number of French works performed increased. For a comparison of national repertoires performed by the Boston and New York orchestras from 1916 to 1922 see Tischler, “One Hundred Percent Americanism,” 172.
86. Watkins, p. 298
87. Watkins, p. 299
88. Stock, Document "dealing with my present situation"; minutes of Trustees' meeting, Oct. 1, 1918, ICSO
89. Epstein, p.24
90. Maurice Rosenfeld, "American Composers Must Get Busy Now, So Says Frederick Stock,” Chicago Daily News, Sept. 26, 1917.
91. Otis, p. 302
92. Epstein, p. 25
93. The Chicago Music Festival, April 24-28, 1917 [Program] ([Chicago: 1917), 38.
94. Epstein, p. 26
95. Watkins, p. 305
96. Damrosch, p.223.
97. It is reported that Damrosch was fined by the American musician’s union for not advertising for local musicians from New York. However, the emigrating musicians were allowed to stay in the U.S. “Damrosch Fined $1,000; Didn't Consult Union,” The New York Times, June 1, 1905.
98. Watkins, p. 326
99. Nadia Boulanger and her recently deceased sister Lili formed Comite Franco-Americain in 1915. Nadia continued this organization and attended to the needs of former conservatory students who were now in active service. They kept in contact via a monthly gazette that they sent out to the Western Front. Léonie Rosenstiel, The Life and Works of Lili Boulanger (London, 1978), 114 –115. Damrosch, p. 259.
100. Damrosch, p. 249
101. Ibid, p. 251
102. Boyer, pp. 44-51
103. Tischler, pp.132–133
104. Smith, p.88
105. Smith, p. 89
106. Smith, p. 90